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RSCDS London branch eUpdate
22 June 2020


Dear fellow dancers
What beautiful summer weather we are enjoying in London. We are grateful; to everyone who has taken time out from walks in the sunshine, or from queuing to enter the newly opened non essential shops,  to provide us with more content for this eUpdate.  

This week we have another fascinating glimpse into the RSCDS archives with no fewer than 16 dances demonstrated in one lovely video, A Highland Fling. Our top 3 dances come from a little further afield than usual and we're grateful to Judy Valvona, teacher at the Isle of Wight Caledonian Society, for sharing her three favourite dances. Thelma Jane Robb has provided another beautifully designed Spot the Difference puzzle and we have the answers from last week's quiz.
We're delighted to feature another new dance inspired by (or in spite of) lockdown, Kay Senior's "Eight Pairs of Feet, Dancing Six Feet Apart" may be enjoyed further down this edition.

Finally, this week's 'Dance Scottish at Home' newsletter provided the usual excellent read with a great mix of music, history, fun, challenge and of course the highlight of many people's week, the online dance class, this week from New Zealand.

Please do let us know if you find something to share with fellow London dancers. Quizzes, favourite dance videos and memories of dancing in times past - all welcomed.  

Scottish Dance Videos

This week's 55 minute video is another from the RSCDS archives. It's called A Highland Fling and is a collection of some of the best traditional and modern highland dances and popular ladies' step dances. Sixteen dances and graded highland steps are demonstrated.

The dances demonstrated are: Scottish Lilt; Highland Fling; The Shepherd's Crook; Seann Truibhas; Blue Bonnets; The Glasgow Highlanders; Wilt Thou Go to the Barracks Johnny?; Deeside Lilt; Hielan' Laddie; Argyll Broadswords; Flowers of Edinburgh; Earl of Errol; Miss Forbes; Come Ashore Jolly Tar; Blue Bonnets Over the Border; Foursome Reel and Tulloch. 
Thanks again to Peter Knight and to Meryl and Ian Thomson for sourcing and making available these lovely films.
Three of my favourite dances – Judy Valvona
Following last week's selections from Wendy Morris, this week Judy Volvona, teacher at the Isle of Wight Caledonian Society, shares her favourite dances with us.

Judy has been involved in Scottish Country Dancing since childhood. She started highland & country dancing in London when she was 11 years, at the Balmoral School of Highland Dance. When she was 16 she moved to the Isle of Wight, then danced with Bath RSCDS while she was a student. Later Judy trained as a SCD teacher under Bruce Frazer, passed her teaching certificate on her 40th birthday in 1997 and has been teaching on the Isle of Wight ever since. She is one of three teachers at the Isle of Wight Caledonian Society.


The reason Judy's picked these dances as her three favourite is because she loves the music to all of them. She says, "Many, many years ago I was a highland dancer so it’s no surprise that my choices include a hornpipe and some Highland Schottische setting".


Chequered Court - x 32 bar Jig, devised by Duncan Brown, RSCDS Book 42, No. 3

The tune for this dance is Lady Charlotte Murray by Niel Gow, fiddler and musical prodigy from the 18th century, and apart from the tune it’s the chord sequence from D major to C major and back that I like. The dance is great fun. I like the variation on corners pass and turn, pulling back right shoulder after the first corner to face your partner’s second corner instead of your own. This complements the right shoulder back to face own sides ready for double triangles. It’s nice to dance a bog standard double triangles with a natural, easy finish between the supporting couples ready for reels of three across the dance, similar to Starry Eyed Lassie but easier to phrase as the reels are only 6 bars, with the 1s crossing to their own sides on 7&8 to finish.

The dance is named after the Chequered Court which connects the two main buildings of University Hall, St Andrews, where the RSCDS meets for the yearly Summer School, though I’ve not yet ever been.


The Robertson Rant - x 80 bar Strathspey in a square set, devised by Mrs Douglas Winchester (Maidie Logie Robertson)  RSCDS Book 39, No. 8
I love book 39, I could have taken all of my favourite dances from the same book!  The opening strong, traditional strathspey tune in a minor key, Struan Robertson’s Rant, sets the mood for this square set dance as the dancers circle 8 hands round and back followed by a double ladies chain. Again, it’s that E minor to D major chord sequence I like, a pattern repeated throughout the four tunes in this dance as well being riddled with
strong scotch snap.

The next tune, Major Hamish Robertson by Iain Robertson, is a lighter tune in A major (is that the composers wit?). It heralds the reel of four started by two opposite ladies while their partners set. The ladies hold back at the end of the reel while the men catch up on the very last bar so that they turn inwards, covering, before turning away to set to their corner using Highland Schottische setting. The music “tells you” it’s Highland Schottische setting by using a broken chord at the start, in a rhythm which “says” side, behind, side, in front. As the ladies circle and the men square up the dance we are plunged into another dramatic tune in D minor, Caerketton by Iain Robertson. This tune is my favourite bit and as the ladies pull their right shoulder back to face their partners for the set & turn, the end of the phrase of music gives us two hemidemisemiquavers to tell us what to do! The men have the same from their circle going into set and turn partners.

The final tune is Maidie Logie Robertson (the name of the dance deviser) by Ian Robertson and is in the bright A major key again as the dancers take one step to each hand for a grand chain, then taking allemande hold promenade once round the set to turn the ladies into the centre for the final honouring of the partner.


The Sailor - x 32 bar hornpipe (reel)  collected by Miss Jenny MacLachlan,  RSCDS Book 24, No. 4.

The tune for The Sailor is The Davy Hornpipe, collected by James S Kerr possibly in 19th century, arranged in book 24 by Margaret Rae where all 16 bars are played and then repeated in total to make up the 32 bars (rather than 8 bar phrases repeated) and it has the characteristic hornpipe pom pom pom at the end of each 8 bar phrase. The music needs to be at a nice steady pace for the dancers as the dance has its challenging moments and much light and shade in the steps.

The first couple cross down into double triangle position as the 2s step up straight away and all set, then the 1s put on an immense spurt to cast round their first corner, preferably without touching them (and definitely without knocking them off balance!) to arrive apparently effortlessly in the centre of the dance inviting taking hands with a supporting couple ready to set again up and down the dance. Right shoulder reels of three across the dance finish with the first couple again putting on a spurt for the last two bars to get to 2nd place on the opposite side, balanced and poised, especially for the man who is about to dance back the way he’s just come from. From there they lead down for two (which is unusual but easier than dancing down for three!) and up for two before crossing above the 2s who are standing in top place and casting off one place ready for rights & lefts with the 2s above them. Covering rights and lefts with a standing couple is not so easy, as the dancing couples have the momentum going and the standing couple cannot start dancing rights and lefts until the first beat of the next phrase. Hence it is so important for the 1s to shorten their steps and phrase the cast to finish just approaching the sidelines ready to dance into the rights and lefts, with both couples bringing their arms up together and covering beautifully.

Whether you have been dancing a long time or just started, please do tell us what YOUR choices would be? Email to tell us about them.
Previous weeks' selections
Simon Wales
The Dancing MasterAutumn in Appin and John of Bon Accord

Meryl Thomson
The New Rigged ShipThe Rakes of Glasgow and The Montgomeries’ Rant

Stephen Webb
The Starry Eyed LassieSleepy Maggie  and Up in the Air 

Melanie Rowland 
Catch the Wind, Pelorus Jack and The Dream Catcher 

Chris Hood 
Bratach Bàna, Clutha and Seann triubhas Willichan 

Rachel Wilton
Flowers of EdinburghJennifer's Jig and Midsummer Common

Dave Hall
College Hornpipe, Gentleman and Wild Geese 

Mervyn Short
The NurserymanLord Elgin's Reel and The Deil amang the Tailors

Margaret Shaw
The New PetronellaJohnnie’s Welcome Hame and Sloane Square 

Jim Cook
Swiss LassieBelle Of Bon Accord and Tap The Barrel

Wendy Morris
Miss Johnstone of ArdrossanJ.B.Milne and Mairi’s Wedding
Video challenge

Earlier this month we shared a video of Mr Pastry and his solo rendition of the Lancers.  Can you do better? Send us ( a video of you dancing solo to a favourite Scottish Country Dance and find out how easily, or otherwise, your fellow dancers can identify that dance.
Eight Pairs of Feet, Dancing Six Feet Apart.
(A 4 couple dance in a 4 couple set 32x4 bar Jig or Reel)

A new dance this week, courtesy of Kay Senior, Chiswick Scottish Country Dance Club. Kay  apologises for the unconventional terminology but hopes others will enjoy this lockdown creation.
1st and 3rd couples set twice, lady turning on second set to face out.
Chase clockwise and back to place.
2nd and 4th couples repeat the above.
1st and 3rd  ladies set advancing as their partners set retiring for 2 steps, then set returning to place.
1st couple setting, 4 times as they rotate.
2,3 and 4 couples repeat this movement in turn once couple above them has finished.( a cascade effect)
1st couple set (lady turning) and chase round the set,
2, 3 and 4s join the chase as the couple above passes them. (1st L 1st M, 2nd L 2nd M etc.).
After 8 bars. All clap and right foot leading, rotate and chase back to place. !st couple casting to the foot on last bar.
This week's puzzle is a Spot the Difference compiled by Thelma Jane Robb. It features a photo taken at one of our Kensington Gardens Open Air Dances in August 2018. Thank you Thelma for reminding us of happier times.
Can you spot the 8 differences?
Answers will be given next week.
Scotland General Knowledge Quiz 

See below for the answers to last week's general knowledge quiz. Were you able to get them all correct?
General Knowledge Quiz about Scotland
1. At the Highland Games in the tossing of the caber event, from what type of tree is a caber usually made?  A larch tree
2. Which Loch is the deepest fresh-water body of water in the British Isles?  Loch Morar
3. What is Scotland’s national animal?  Unicorn

4. Who was the first Scot to be UK Poet Laureate?  Dame Carol Anne Duffy
5. What is sometimes called the Stone of Destiny, and is often referred to in England as the Coronation Stone?  The Stone of Scone
6. What sort of lift is famous rotating Falkirk Wheel?  A boat lift
7. Can you translate the Scottish Gaelic phrase “Failte gu Alba”?  Welcome to Scotland
8. What does “Ceilidh” mean in Gaelic?  Visit, Visiting
9. We’ve taken out the vowels and scrunched up the consonants. What Scottish Country dance is this? The answer may be more than one word. D’LMNGTHTLRS (Book 14).  Deil Amang the Tailors
10. Another Scottish Country dance with missing vowels. The answer may be more than one word. THVTR (Book 52)  The Aviator

RSCDS Dance Scottish at Home.
Dance Scottish at Home this week had both a young influence and an ancient edge.  The “At Home Podcast” featured young musicians and dancers, this week's quiz provided by another group of young dancers plus there were Scottish themed colouring sheets for the very youngest amongst us.  The ancient legend of the Loch Ness Monster was retold with reports of sightings from 500AD to the 21st century. Keeping to the Loch Ness theme, the story behind the dance, "Loch Ness Monster" from  A Second Book of Graded Scottish Country Dances,  provided fascinating detail and beautiful images of Loch Ness and the surrounding area.

Previous editions of the RSCDS newsletter, Dance Scottish at Home are available here: 
Week 12Week 11Week 10Week 9Week 8Week 7Week 6Week 5Week 4Week 3Week 2Week 1

Very far from Loch Ness, the online class found us in the Whanganui home of New Zealand teacher, Debbie Roxburgh. Due to the time difference, Debbie's class was recorded and was introduced by Angela Young who was on hand to answer any queries as the class progressed.  Debbie kept us moving at a swift pace and, following from home in London, we stumbled through the lively warmup (moving left arm with right leg and vice versa is surely more challenging than it used to be) then onto pas de basque and the poussette before learning  the aptly names and chosen Roxburgh Castle from Book 6. We ended the session out of breath but with a sense of achievement at again learning a new dance in company with over 1200 fellow dancers worldwide. 

You can catch up with this week’s class and some of the chat here.

The virtual class teachers are doing an amazing and inventive job in selecting dances which can be enjoyed in small spaces without minimal damage to people or furniture. it's a great pleasure to join the Scottish Country Dance community in this way each week.
Next week's class, with a different teacher, will be at 7pm on Wednesday and available via this link (same link every week). Grateful thanks to RSCDS, the teachers and the technicians who make this weekly class possible.

To revisit any of the classes so far simply click on the relevant image or name below.
Debbie Roxburgh
David Queen
Angela Young, Mervyn Short, Dave Hall, Diane Hastie,William Williamson, Ron Wallace, Graham Donald
We will continue to include links from Dance Scottish at Home but, if you'd like your own personal copy simply visit, scroll to the bottom of the homepage and complete your details in the ‘Sign up for the RSCDS eNewsletter’ section. It’s quick and easy! There is also a DSAH webpage where you can access previous issues of the Dance Scottish At Home eNewsletter and view all of the Zoom online classes to date – visit

NHS advice on keeping yourself well:

Government advice here:
RSCDS Blog here:

We look forward to dancing with you soon.
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